The coffee and doughnuts were a good draw on any day, but milling about, there was an air of anticipation at an event that seemed to be taking shape. Staff helped unpack and display the food, offered to help with the placement of a banner, but the quizzical looks made it clear that many had zero idea what was transpiring, why the store was filled with people, and where the reporters came from.
And then Ry Russell stepped up to welcome people. The serial Maine entrepreneur is best known for saving the Saco Driving which landed him on the 40 Under 40 list, but his WeedBudz Radio podcast is gaining ground on the national circuit.
“The retail experience is so important,” he would later tell me. “It’s especially true for cannabis. When I first walked into this dispensary after returning to Maine, I was nervous and had no idea what to expect. Paul [Robbins] put me right at ease and he’s been my budtender ever since.”
While the medical cannabis market has already been well established, the mainstreaming from adult use is generating new excitement in the industry. And we are starting to see friendly competitions like High 95 that MCC participated in late last year to showcase flower and products.
Under the auspices of aiding in the awarding of the WeedBudz Budtender of the Year Award, Ry recruited his trusty budgender to come up front. A rather shy, sweet-natured person, he nodded as Ry spoke about the critical importance budtenders play in helping patients and adult consumers unpack the mysteries of cannabis and find the right products.
There was a delay in Paul’s face as he searched the crowd for the award winner, only to dart a shocked glance to Ry upon hearing his own name called. The fair skinned budtender quickly turned bright red as the entire room erupted in some well-deserved applause. This Wellness Connection budtender had spent years educating himself about products, listening to patient feedback and incorporating that in his recommendations. Coupled with the kind of soft bedside manner one needs when providing often intimate medical suggestions, the combination led to earning the award, as humbly accepting it as he had earned it.
And, great budtenders don’t just get made, they are often supported by a full team and leadership that supports that incredible foundation of knowledge, noted Ry. And to that end, his team of advisors had determined that Wellness Connection should receive the 2019 Dispensary of the Year Award. Accepting the award, Patricia Rossi - who had been told the event was exclusively for Paul - was also taken by surprise. She extolled her team - from growing to budtending to extracts to marketing - for their hard work in earning the title.
We are honored to be selected for this award,” says Patricia Rosi, CEO, Wellness Connection of Maine. “Our staff is fully committed to raising the bar for this industry through compassionate care; top-quality cannabis, and full compliance with all state laws, rules and regulations.”
While the 2019 awards have officially been named, WeedBudz Radio is launching a monthly competition for Budtender and Dispensary of the month. The 2020 winner will be selected from the monthly winners between now and December. To nominate your favorite budtender or dispensary (state-sanctioned or medical caregiver store), submit here.